Fear Street, Part 1 – 1994 (2021)

Though w. great killer designs, retro ’90’s soundtrack, & promising concept across decades, FSP1 is a highly-unoriginal RL Stine trek through clichéd meta-slasher references, relationship melodrama, weak performances, teen edge, and fleeting [yawnable] kills. 4/10.

Plot Synopsis: After a series of brutal slayings, a teen and her friends take on an evil force that’s plagued their notorious town for centuries.

*Possible Spoilers Ahead*

Official CLC Review

R.L. Stine

The Author Of Of Childhood Favorite Lite-Horror Novels From Goosebumps To RS/MG To The Nightmare Room Gets A Film Trilogy Event Of Mixed-To-Bad Project Realization

Photograph Courtesy Of: Netflix Films

When I heard the concept-pitch of Fear Street, I was instantly hooked: a Netflix film trilogy of anthological slasher films set in different years: 1994, 1978, & 1666 yet connecting with an overarching mythology from the mind of R.L. Stine. A children’s lite-horror maven responsible for bringing the world and my childhood the classic Goosebumps novels I partially credit for my love of the genre of fear today, I was also hopeful by its year choices spanning three definitive years of slasher & horror lore: Meta ’90’s, Golden Age late ’70’s-’80’s, & Colonial/Supernature 1600’s. Fear Street, Part 1 – 1994, however, is a mixed project that fails its premise or to bring some new energy to the dwindling popularity of Netflix amidst growing market shares of competitors like HBO Max and Disney+ that have dominated the year so far – and it doesn’t even feel like R.L. Stine. Though it boasts great killer designs, retro ’90’s soundtrack, a strong final act cliffhanger, & promising concept across decades of lore, FSP1 is a highly-unoriginal R.L. Stine trek through clichéd meta-slasher references with inauthentic feel, relationship melodrama [mishandling a golden opportunity to bring LGBTQ+ to horror], weak performances, miscastings, teen edge, and fleeting yawnable kills.

Few Kills, Teen Edge, & Weak Performances

Though The Film Starts & Ends Fine, Those Are ~90% Of The Kills; Yawns And Rookie Acting, But A Great Retro ’90’s Soundtrack With Eye-Candy Neon Background Sets

Photograph Courtesy Of: Netflix Films

The opening scene is the closest the film ever gets to feeling like R.L. Stine by its – though preoccupied with exactly recreating Scream down to even the angle of knife-placement and shots – eye-candy neon background set design and decent beginning kill of Stranger Things veteran Maya Hawke that even shocks by revealing the killer amidst novels bold-faced with R.L.’s novel typography and chroma-scheme. The season-finale-esque cliffhanger of a negated happy ending definitely leaves you hooked and wanting more as Netflix channels their proven TV skillsets alongside a genius-on-paper concept of an anthological slasher trilogy across decades in some of the best settings in horror. The journey to get between the two, however, is bad. The characters are bland and one-dimensional [though we respect the decision to at least try to make slasher vicodin with some depth, it doesn’t work out] – and the performances are weak. A cast of unknowns from Olivia Rodrigo-lookalikes to not-even-funny frat bro archetypes (Benjamin Flores, Jr.’s shy, geeky Josh is the best of the bunch) whom you can feel every line of wavering shakiness and inexperience make you wonder why exactly Netflix couldn’t find any better child-acting talent like IT, Stranger Things, etc. did. Kiana Madeira is an awful lead casting *dramatically* out-of-her-league – more so tuned for the Disney Channel she literally came from [& it shows] than this huge a potential-film of thousands of better-choice actresses.

Relationship Melodrama & Ersatz LGBTQ+

A Bold, Rootable Cause New To The Genre Tempered By Miscast Leads, False Pretenses, & Relationship Melodrama: Oftentimes More Like A Soap-Opera Than A Slasher

Photograph Courtesy Of: Netflix Films

The film is packed with relationship melodrama – it feels often like you’re watching a soap opera, more antagonizable by the fact it squanders an LGBTQ+ romance. We fully support the LGBTQIA+ community and consider ourselves a part of it – and would have loved to see a romance like this properly-executed [as we cherished in Portrait Of A Lady On Fire – one of our highest rated films of the 2010’s] by its bold difference in the horror genre and representation, but should a film get an instant-pass just because of its inclusion without care of the execution as most critics do with a 90%+ carte-blanche? No. Miscast leads of brittle acting mettle doom the midtime television-ready liaison from the start, and it’s bizarrely tempered with what feels almost like conversion propaganda for straight people – one that’s destructive to the cause by framing it as a choice like Sam’s you can easily and seamlessly bounce between.. when it’s not one. Speaking of poorly-handled ideology loaded with teen edgebro insolence, the film also defends drug-dealership/usage [in a film based on a children’s book series.. just one of the many ways this feels nothing like R.L. Stine] and proudly cop-hates. Don’t get us wrong: we’re definitely not cop-apologists and 100% agree the system needs comprehensive reform and stricter requirements to flush out the many corrupt and racist individuals responsible for tragedies like the murder of George Floyd in 2020, but to call them ‘pigs’ on-screen while laughing and imply there can-be/are no good ones is just obtuse and does nothing to constructively reform.

Clichéd Meta-References > Originality

The Film Echoes Netflix’s M.O.: Mix Classic Franchise Ideas & Hope To Fool Genre Newbies, Here The Most Unoriginal & Lazy By Far: Referencing Instead Of Creating

Photograph Courtesy Of: Netflix Films

Especially in the context of horror you best hope you never find yourself in a real-life situation like where 911 is your only possible help, the film feels like it’s being pumped with performative activism by how many Millennial/Gen Z political checkpoints the studio seems to be ticking off one-by-one at the expense of the film and horror. Beyond these ideological misexecutions are visceral ones: the film’s not even scary. Fear Street’s concept is – like Stranger Things as a recurring theme at Netflix – just an amalgamation of classic genre franchises they blend into a smoothie of leftovers they hope their tween/teen demographic will gulp up and won’t be educated or versed enough to realize it took little effort to imagine from: Scream, Dawn of The Dead, Jaws, Friday the 13th, The Shining, Blair Witch Project, Suspiria, The Boy, American Horror Story, & Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark were just a few of the ones we counted.The film violates the cardinal rule of slasher movies [sensory thrills/experience] by having like 3 [yawnable] scenes in the entire ~2 hour movie with victims so few, you can count them on one hand – being more concerned with recreating and references genre history than making its own – a problematic, lazy trend progressively haunting the modern genre.

Green Light Concept, Red Light Execution

An Anthological Horror Trilogy Event Of Great Potential Fleetingly Realized Towards The End W. Hope For Sequels, But A Weakly Cast, Unoriginal, & Dogmatic Beginning

Photograph Courtesy Of: Netflix Films

Now, that’s not to say there aren’t any pros: the killer design of its central skull-masked slasher is bloody fantastic alongside great designs across the killers of its anthological franchise, expertly-cut intro credits sequence celebration-worthy as a commonality across Netflix projects, and the retro ’90’s soundtrack is amazing – from the groovy fuzz-basslines of Nine Inch Nails to classic ’90’s jump-hop of Cypress Hill to ethereal melancholy of Radiohead’s Creep. The positives are just lost in a sea of weak cinematic intangibles and good ideas poorly-executed for an underwhelming project that fails for at least 2/3 of its runtime before at least finding too-little-too-late life in the unpredictable final act subverting expectations of a happy ending and full roster to get you intrigued in the next films that have the potential to be better by their originless flashbacks to two legend-tier horror settings: ’70’s summer camps and 1600’s Salem, MA. Though it boasts great killer designs, retro ’90’s soundtrack, a strong final act cliffhanger, & promising concept across decades of lore, FSP1 is a highly-unoriginal R.L. Stine trek through clichéd meta-slasher references with inauthentic feel, relationship melodrama [mishandling a golden opportunity to bring LGBTQ+ to horror], weak performances, miscastings, teen edge, and fleeting yawnable kills.

Official CLC Score: 4/10